but I would not listen to Balaam. So he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you from his hand.
I. THE FACT THAT ABRAHAM WAS ORIGINALLY A HEATHEN. He was not merely born and bred an idolater, as we might have gathered from the story of Bachel's teraphim, but was a pagan in exactly the same condition of belief as many in India or in China are today. Some, in later times especially, and indeed in all times, worshipped the true God, but employed an idol to assist their imagination of Him; that is, they simply sought ritualistic and sensuous aids to religious thought and feeling. But Abraham began life far lower down in the religious scale. His fathers served other gods; the deified powers of nature representing little more than the forces and tendencies of life. Primitive tradition had lost any brightness it ever had. The religious sentiment had lost that reverence and habit of attention which soon begins to perceive God and to feel that the God constantly appealing to it is one and the same. The worship of several deities is always a mark of a superstitious ingredient blending with faith. Terah's family were in this condition. They were not only idolaters but polytheists - without Bible or sacrament, promise, or law. Abraham was precisely in the same sort of spiritual circumstances, and had been taught the same sort of religious ideas, and trained in the same superstitions, as are found in all pagan lands today. Yet with advantages so slight, he became the spiritual father of the religious nation of antiquity - type of all saintliness, of everything bright in faith and unquestioning in obedience. There is some reason to suppose that a god of vengeance was one of those deities most reverently regarded by his people; and yet he finds and worships a God of love! He, like all of us, had Christ, the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He, unlike most of us, followed the Christ light within him. Following the Divine light, it grew ever clearer, and his vision became stronger to perceive and his heart to follow it. Amongst a multitude of silent deities, One spoke to him through his conscience, with more and more of frequency, and, in the devotee in which He was obeyed, with more and more of clearness, both in the comforts He whispered and the commands He enjoined, till gradually he felt there was but one great God, who governed all, and should receive the homage of all; who was the friendly refuge as well as the omnipotent Creator of men. Gradually his life began to revolve around this unseen Centre, and the outward aspect and inward purpose of his life stood out in palpable difference from that of his fellows. Doubtless he preached his deep conviction, gathered about him some kindred spirits; perhaps had to endure persecution; till at last he got a strong impression borne in upon his conscience that his path of duty and of spiritual wisdom was to leave his native land and seek a new home for what was a new faith amongst men. His coming to Ur of the Chaldees, and then to Canaan, may be compared with the expedition of the Pilgrim fathers. Like them he sought "freedom to worship God," and like them founded a great nation in doing so. In any view of his character, his decision, his devotion, the clearness of his faith, the promptness of his obedience, are marvellous. But they become much more so when we mark the fact that Joshua here brings out, that Abraham began his career in heathen darkness - that the father of the faithful began life as a mere pagan. Observe -
II. SOME LESSONS OF THIS FACT. For evidently it has many. We can only suggest them.
(1) A little grace and a little light go a long way when well used. How little had Abraham to begin with! But, using what he had, it grew more, and was enough to do more for him than light a thousand times as clear does for some of us today. A man who has light upon his next step of duty has really an "abundance of revelation." Do not go in for being omniscient, postponing all obedience until you get light on all truth. Use your little light well whatever it is, and so you will get more.
(2) Obedience is the mode of self enlightenment. "If any man will do God's will, he shall know God's doctrine." So says Christ. Doing duty is the way of discovering truth. Since the creation of the world there has been no other. Take this.
(3) All the sacraments are means of grace, not conditions of salvation. The Church has always been tempted to exaggerate the helpful into the essential, until it says, "Extra ecclesiam, nulia salus." Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, arguing with those who held the sacrament of circumcision essential to salvation, quotes Abraham as reaching all his spirituality and acceptance with God, "not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision," i.e, not by sacraments, but without them altogether. Sacraments are aids. The mercy that gave them to be such will, in the absence of them through error or inadvertence, use some other way of enriching and enlightening the obedient heart.
(4) However sunk in superstition the heathen may be, they are capable of religion. The difference between the Christian and the heathen in the matter of spiritual advantages is not a difference between having all and having nothing, but between having more and having less. They have the Christian inward light - movings of God's spirit, lessons of God's providence. God speaks to them, and "wakes their ear in the morning." They lack the testimony of God's saints, their examples, the revelation of God's highest law, a clear light on immortality; above all, the light which comes from the life and death of the Son of God - "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." This fuller light would multiply vastly the number of the devout amongst them, and give a higher character to their devotion. But they may be saved, as we are taught explicitly both by Peter and by Paul, by a Saviour they feel and follow, though they do not know the story of His love.
(5) The heathen being thus capable of religion, and our higher advantages being influential to produce it, we ought to extend to them the full light of the Saviour's glory. Our neglect of Christian missions grows from our despair of heathen men. We ought to think of the millions in heathen darkness as Abraham's brethren, and capable of appreciating and responding to all that is true and gracious. If we rightly reverence them, we should not eat our morsel of the bread of life alone, but should share it with them. Let us seek to extend the knowledge of the gospel of Christ, and we shall yet behold many an Abraham rising up in heathen lands. - G.
Cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day.I. SIN HAS NATURALLY IN ITSELF A TENDENCY TO THE RUIN OF ANY NATION. We may easily see that when a people grow regardless of the laws of God they want the greatest obligations of obedience to the laws of men.
II. SIN MAKES GOD AN ENEMY. God presides with a peculiar providence over societies and communities of men. We may learn from the history of all past ages and the frequent smart of our own that the government of God is ever administered according to the nature of men's actions; that He dispenses His favour to a people, or withdraws it from them, as virtue or vice, religion or impiety, respectively prevail among them. But perhaps it may be said by some who are ready to impute all successes to themselves, "What need we to call in Providence in all difficulties?" Now this, give me leave to prove more particularly, by considering those three main props on which the weight of states and empires may seem to them, who look not far into things and their causes, wholly to rely; that is, worldly providence, or policy in contriving; courage and force in executing great designs; and a wise improvement of both these, by firm and well-grounded confederacies. But alas! in these, barely considered, there can be no safety, because no human foresight can reach those many accidents, the least of which may alter the best-laid counsels; nor any human courage, though never so well seconded, be sure to execute them, since the very execution of them is attended with so many circumstances as may produce effects quite different from what they proposed.
III. THE OBLIGATION, WHICH LIES ON EVERYBODY WHO LOVES HIS COUNTRY TO DO HIS DUTY TO GOD, FROM WHICH SUCH UNIVERSAL VIRTUE AND PIETY WILL RESULT, AS WILL MOST CERTAINLY ENGAGE GOD ON OUR SLOE.
1. That all national favours flow purely from God, I will presume has been sufficiently proved, as being beyond the single or united force of human policy, courage, or the firmest alliances: if so, what is it more than our bounden duty, and justice, to acknowledge unfeignedly the gift to God, who desires no more for the giving it? He is not bettered by our thanksgivings, yet is pleased with the gratitude.
2. We ought to break off the course of those sins which will estrange God from us, and deprive us hereafter of all such extraordinary successes.
Sketches Four Hundred Sermons.I. THE DUTY THE TEXT RECOMMENDS. Cleaving unto the Lord evidently implies —
1. Previous union with Him.
2. Faithful adherence to Him. Our religion must be uniform and constant; we must not only come to the Lord as humble penitents, but also adhere to Him as His indefatigable servants.(1) We should cleave to His name; as the fountain of all goodness, from whom we receive every blessing; and therefore should continue to love, obey, hope, and trust in Him, as the God of our salvation (Isaiah 12:2; Habakkuk 3:18).(2) We should cleave to His Word; by faithfully reading its contents, imbibing its doctrines, obeying its precepts, and by making it the perpetual subject of our meditation and prayers, and the infallible rule of our faith and conduct (Psalm 119:18, 148; John 5:39; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17).(3) We should cleave to His ways; by diligently discharging all personal and relative duties, constantly attending all the means of grace, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, and by "walking in all the commandments and ordinances blameless."(4) We should cleave to Him at all times: in prosperity and adversity, in tribulation and distress, in health and affliction, in life and death; implicitly trusting "in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."
II. THE IMPORTANCE THE TEXT INVOLVES. This evidently appears, both from the solemnity of the occasion on which it was delivered, and the fervency of the manner in which it was urged on the tribes of Israel.
1. This duty is reasonable (John 6:67-69; Romans 12:1, 2).
2. This duty is honourable. Instability in religion is peculiarly disgraceful (2 Peter 2:20-22). It is extremely weak and childish, and should be carefully avoided, as displeasing to God, and dishonourable to our holy profession (Ephesians 4:14).
3. This duty is profitable. It is only by cleaving unto the Lord that we can maintain personal piety, overcome our enemies, encounter difficulties, rejoice evermore, triumph over death, and "lay hold on eternal life" (Deuteronomy 4:3, 4; Psalm 57:7; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8).
4. This duty is indispensable. Final perseverance is necessary to final salvation. He only that "endures to the end shall be saved" (1 Corinthians 15:2; Romans 2:7; 2 Peter 1:10, 11).
III. THE MOTIVES TO THIS DUTY.
(Sketches Four Hundred Sermons.)
PeopleAaron, Amorites, Balaam, Balak, Beor, Canaanites, Egyptians, Eleazar, Esau, Girgashite, Girgashites, Hamor, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Isaac, Israelites, Jacob, Jebusites, Joseph, Joshua, Nachor, Nahor, Nun, Perizzites, Phinehas, Seir, Serah, Terah, Zippor
PlacesCanaan, Egypt, Euphrates River, Gaash, Gibeah, Jericho, Jordan River, Moab, Red Sea, Seir, Shechem, Timnath-serah
TopicsBalaam, Bless, Blessed, Blessing, Deliver, Delivered, Ear, Expressly, Greatly, Hearken, Kept, Listen, Safe, Willing
Outline1. Joshua assembles the tribes at Shechem
2. A brief history of God's benefits from Terah
14. He renews the covenant between them and God
26. A stone the witness of the covenant
29. Joshua's age, death, and burial
32. Joseph's bones are buried
33. Eleazar dies
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 24:7
LibraryFebruary the Tenth Registering a Verdict
"The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey." --JOSHUA xxiv. 22-28. Here was a definite decision. Our peril is that we spend our life in wavering and we never decide. We are like a jury which is always hearing evidence and never gives a verdict. We do much thinking, but we never make up our minds. We let our eyes wander over many things, but we make no choice. Life has no crisis, no culmination. Now people who never decide spend their days in hoping to do so. But this kind of life …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
A Summary of Israel's Faithlessness and God's Patience
Jesus Sets Out from Judæa for Galilee.
Meditations for Household Piety.
The Promise to the Patriarchs.
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
And for Your Fearlessness against them Hold this Sure Sign -- Whenever There Is...
Covenanting Performed in Former Ages with Approbation from Above.
The First Commandment
Moses and his Writings
"The Carnal Mind is Enmity against God for it is not Subject to the Law of God, Neither Indeed Can Be. So Then they that Are
Gen. xxxi. 11
Manner of Covenanting.
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